Europe's biotech industry 'seriously underfunded'

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Venture capital World trade organization

The European biotechnology industry is chronically under-funded and
is in danger of floundering, according to a report published today.

The study from Critical I - a specialist biotechnology consultancy - claims that although the European and US biotechnology industries both have around 2,000 companies, the US sector employs nearly twice as many people, spends around three times as much on research and development and raises over twice as much venture capital.

It also earns twice as much revenue.

"Venture capital is a luxury. Less than 10 per cent of European companies win venture funds each year,"​ said John Hodgson, a partner at Critical I who authored the study.

"But it is an indispensable luxury. Only properly capitalised companies can hope to compete globally in knowledge-intensive industries like biotechnology."

He said that Europe had the potential to be a breeding ground for European companies, or a greenhouse for high-technology firms that are acquired by better funded US firms.

"The development of technology will follow the money that allows it to develop. Europe needs to ensure that the money is here."

This study identified 2,163 European biotechnology companies whose primary commercial activity was in biotechnology. EuropBio, the European Association for Bioindustries, pounced on the findings, claiming that this promising sector is in danger of foundering from lack of money.

Dr Hans Kast, chairman of EuropaBio and president and CEO of BASF Plant Science said that identifying the problem was the first step to a solution.

"A second step is providing significant financial and tax incentives to investors and venture capitalists to invest in biotechnology such as the Young Innovative Company (YIC) concept. This was introduced in France in 2004, and gives generous tax and social cost incentives for small companies developing new, science-based products.

"Making this the norm across all Member States would give a significant boost to attracting more investors to our sector and help to close the yawning competitiveness gap."

The World Trade Organisation recently confirmed a ruling against the EU in a case brought by the US and other nations against a de facto moratorium on genetically modified products such as biotech crops.

Despite continued consumer reluctance to embrace the technology, Europe is moving ahead with this technology. The EC recently adopted an overview of the state of implementation of national co-existence measures.

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